"Speak to the Israelites and say to them, 'These are My appointed feasts, the feasts of the LORD that you will proclaim as sacred assemblies.
Leviticus 23:1-3Genesis 2:2, 3; Exodus 16:22; Exodus 20:8-11; Mark 2:23-28; Revelation 1:10. In the sacrificial worship we come across what is essentially different as an offering from the sacrifice of an animal or of any palpable possession, and yet is a real sacrifice all the while - we mean that of time. The sabbath, as an offering of rest, has consequently a very high place among the Jews. As Ewald has remarked, it is the only sacrifice which finds a place among the ten commandments. No wonder he regards it as "the greatest and most prolific thought" in the Jewish religion. And here let us notice -
I. THE HIGH VALUE MAN USUALLY SETS ON HIS TIME. It is indeed said to be money. Many will make almost any other sacrifice more willingly than that of their tinge. They will give money, valuables, almost anything you like to ask, except their precious time. What a fuss made about an evening devoted to you by a busy friend, or half an evening, or sometimes half an hour! Hence, in demanding from man a proportion of his time, God asks for what man esteems highly and is loth to give. Time is regarded as so peculiarly man's own, to do what he likes in, that it becomes no light sacrifice, but rather the crown of all sacrifices, when a considerable portion of time is made over unto God.
II. THE DEMAND GOD MAKES IS IN MAN'S INTEREST, FOR IT IS FOR REST AFTER LABOUR. Six days of work, and then, saith God, one day of rest. The body needs it. Seven days' unceasing toil would soon take the heart out of all workers, and bring on premature decay. God himself has set the example. After the untold labours of the creation, after the hard work - if we may reverently use such terms of God - of the creative periods, he has entered into the long sabbath of human history. He is in the midst of it now. This is implied by the words of Jesus, "My Father worketh hitherto, and I work" (John 5:17), in their connection. And so a restful Father in heaven calls upon his toiling children upon earth to rest, as he has done, one day out of seven, and not sink through unceasing labour. So consonant is this weekly rest with the laws of our physical nature, that some, who do not see clearly the scriptural proof and obligation of a holy day, believe that it might safely be allowed to rest upon the foundation of physical need. But the needs of others, alas! constitute no sufficient sanction with selfish men. God must speak and make his demand, else men will run counter to their general welfare in their self-indulgence.
III. GOD'S REST IS TO BE CHARACTERIZED BY SOCIAL WORSHIP. Man is not to spend his seventh day in inactivity. He is not to loiter about his tent or gossip at its door all the day. There is to be "an holy convocation" (מִקְרָאאּקֹדֶשׁ). The day is to be celebrated by social worship. The people were expected to gather in their thousands to praise the Lord. Were it not for such a regulation as the sabbath, with its public services, even Judaism could not have survived. The same reason still holds for a holy sabbath. In the interests of religion it must be observed. What would become of our holy religion if a set time for its weekly observance were not generally kept? Men need these "trysting times" and "trysting places" (as מועְרֵי, in verse 2, might very properly be translated), that religion may keep its position among us. We may imagine what our land 'would be if no Lord's day were kept, if no sabbath bells summoned people to public prayer, and no preachers got their weekly opportunities. It would soon be an irreligious land, carelessness and indifference reigning throughout it in a measure infinitely greater than they do even now.
IV. THE DAY OF REST IS TO BE REGARDED AS THE LORD'S. "It is the sabbath of the Lord in all your dwellings." The Jew regarded the sabbath as "the Lord's day." It was the day of the week that God regulated, and all whose hours he claimed as his. We claim as much for "the first day of the week" under our dispensation. We ask men to lay the day as a hearty offering on God's altar. They are not doing so while they spend it as they like. It is to be a holy day, not a holiday; a holy day, and therefore to a holy soul a happy day, the day in which we can rejoice and be glad. When we can say with John, "I was in the Spirit on the Lord's day," we are sure to have most precious visions of the Lord's beauty and glory (cf. Revelation 1:10, etc.). It is no contention, therefore, about something Jewish, but simply about something honestly dedicated as a day to God. Those who contend against the strict observance of the Lord's day either labour under a total misapprehension about the way some people spend it, or are really bent upon devoting the day to their own purposes instead of to God's. If we are commonly honest, we shall esteem it only right to surrender as the highest offering of our religious life the seventh of our time to him who deserves it all. Man, then, says Ewald, "shall release his soul and body from all their burdens, with all the professions and pursuits of ordinary life, only in order to gather himself together again in God with greater purity and fewer disturbing elements, and renew in him the might of his own better powers. If, then, the interchange of activity and rest is already founded in the nature of all creation, and is the more beneficial and health-bringing the more regular its recurrence, so should it be found here too; yet not as when, in the night and in sleep, the body is cared for, but as when, in a joyous day of unfettered meditation, the spiritual man always finds his true rest, and thereby is indeed renewed and strengthened." - R.M.E.
I. POLITICAL EFFECTS. Annual gatherings of the people exhibited the numerical strength of the nation. As they went "from strength to strength," i.e., from company to company (Psalm 84:7 marg.), on their way to Jerusalem, and saw the vast crowds flocking from all parts of the kingdom to the capital, their patriotic ardour would be fired. The unity of the nation, too, would be ensured by this fusion of the tribes. Otherwise they would be likely to constitute separate tribal states. They would carry back to the provinces glowing accounts of the wealth, power, and resources of the country.
I. SACRED LIFE IS ITSELF A FESTIVAL.
These are My feasts.I. Commentators generally on this part of Hebrew law have remarked upon THE SOCIAL, POLITICAL, AND COMMERCIAL BENEFITS RESULTING TO THE JEWISH PEOPLE FROM THESE NATIONAL FESTIVALS AND CONVOCATIONS. They served to unite the nation, cemented them together as one people, and prevented the tendency to the formation of separate cliques and conflicting clans or states. These convocations also had great effect upon the internal commerce of the Hebrew people. They furnished facilities for mutual exchanges, and opened the ways of trade and business between the various sections.
II. There was also A DIRECT RELIGIOUS VALUE AND FORETHOUGHT IN THE APPOINTMENT OF THESE FESTIVALS. They prescribed public consociation in worship. Man is a worshipping being. It is not only his duty, but his nature and native instinct to worship. Mere isolated worship, without association in common set services, soon dwindles, flags, degenerates, and corrupts. Neither does it ever reach that majesty and intense inspiration which comes from open congregation in the same great acts of devotion. "As iron sharpeneth iron, so man sharpeneth the countenance of his friend." And just as the multitude of these mutual sharpeners is increased, will their common devotion be deepened and augmented.
III. I propose to speak more particularly of THE TYPICAL RELATIONS OF THESE HOLY FEASTS AND SEASONS. We have in them a system of types, chronologically arranged, to set forth the true course of time — to prefigure the whole history of redemption in its leading outlines from the commencement to the close.
1. The first was the Passover. It was a sort of perpetual commemoration of their deliverance from the oppressor and from death — a standing testimonial that their salvation was by the blood of the Lamb. It was the keynote of the Christian system sounding in the dim depths of remote antiquity. That bondage in Egypt referred to a still deeper and more degrading slavery of the spirit. That redemption was the foreshadow of a far greater deliverance. And that slain lamb and its sprinkled blood pointed to a meeker, purer, and higher Victim, whose body was broken and blood shed for us and for many for the remission of sins.
2. The next was the Feast of Unleavened Bread, which was a sort of continuation of the Passover on the next day. The one refers to what Christ does and is to the believer, and the other refers to what the true believer does in return. The one refers to our redemption by blood and our deliverance from condemnation; the other to our repentance and consecration to a new life of obedience, separated from the leaven of unrighteousness. It is therefore plain why both were thus joined together as one. Redemption is nothing to us if it does not lead us to a purification of ourselves from the filthy ways and associations of the wicked, We can only effectually keep the gospel feast by purging out the old leaven of malice and wickedness. Seven days was this Feast of Unleavened Bread to be kept — a full period of time. We are to "serve God in righteousness and holiness all the days of our life." Our work is not done until the week of our stay in this world ends. We must be faithful until death.
3. Joined with the Passover and the Feast of Unleavened Bread was the additional service of presenting before God the first sheaf of the barley harvest. "This," says Cumming, "was a beautiful institution, to teach the Israelites that it was not the soil, nor the raindrops, nor the sunbeams, nor the dews, nor the skill of their agriculturists, that they had to thank for their bounteous produce; but that they must rise above the sower and reaper, and see God, the Giver of the golden harvest, and make His praise the keynote to their harvest-home." It was all this, but it had also a deeper and more beautiful meaning. The broad field, sowed with good seed, with its golden ears ripening for the harvest, is Christ's own chosen figure of His kingdom upon earth, and the congregation of His believing children maturing for the garners of eternal life. In that field the chief sheaf is Jesus Christ Himself; for He was in all respects "made like unto His brethren." He is the "firstfruits." He was gathered first, and received into the treasure-house of heaven. It was the Passover time when He came to perfect ripeness. It was during these solemnities that He was "cut off." And when the Spirit of God lifted Him from the sepulchre, and the heavens opened to receive Him, then did the waving of the sheaf of firstfruits have its truest and highest fulfilment. Until this sheaf was thus offered along with the blood of atonement there could be no harvest for us.
4. There was another harvest, and another festival service connected with its opening, fifty days later than the barley harvest. This was the wheat harvest, at which was celebrated the Feast of Weeks, otherwise called Pentecost. The Passover shows us Christ crucified; the sheaf of firstfruits shows us Christ raised from the dead and lifted up to heaven as our forerunner; and the Pentecostal feast, with its two leavened loaves, shows us Christ in the gracious influences of His Spirit wrought into the hearts and lives of those who constitute His earthly Church. This spiritual kneading took its highest and most active form on that memorable Pentecost when the disciples "were all with one accord in one place," and the Holy Spirit came down upon them with gifts of mighty power. Three thousand souls were that day added to the Church, It was a glad and glorious day for Christianity. It was the firstfruits of wheat harvest brought with joyous thanksgiving unto God. But it was only the firstfruits — the earnest of a vast and plenteous harvest of the same kind ripening on the same fields. Thenceforward the world was to be filled with glad reapers gathering in the sheaves, and with labourers kneading the contents of those sheaves into loaves for God. Leaven there needs is in those loaves; but, presented along with the blood of the chief of the flock and herd, they still become acceptable to Him who ordained the service. There was a peculiar requirement connected with these laws for the wheat, harvest well worthy of special attention. The corners of the fields and the gleanings were to be left. This was a beautiful feature in these arrangements. It presents a good lesson, of which we ought never to lose sight. But it was also a type. Of what, I have not seen satisfactorily explained, though the application seems easy. If the wheat harvest refers to the gathering of men from sin to Christianity, and from subjects of Satan to subjects of grace, then the plain indication of this provision is that the entire world, under this present dispensation, shall not be completely converted to God. I believe that the time will come, and that it is largely and fully predicted in the Scriptures, when "all shall know the Lord from the least unto the greatest" — when there will not be a single sinner left upon the earth. But that time will not come until a new dispensation with new instrumentalities shall have been introduced.
5. The next was the Feast of Trumpets. This was held on the first day of the seventh month of the ecclesiastical year, which was the same as the first month of the civil year. It was therefore a new-year festival, and at the same time the feast of introduction to the Sabbatic month. Its chief peculiarity was the continual sounding of trumpets from morning till evening. It was the grand type of the preaching of the gospel. The Feast of Trumpets was, to a great extent, a preliminary of the great Day of Atonement. We have already considered the peculiarities of this solemn day. Its leading thought is contained in its name — at-one-ment — that is, agreement, reconciliation, harmony, and peace with God. The Feast of Trumpets was a call to this at-one-ment. The gospel is an appeal to men to be reconciled to God.
6. Immediately succeeding the great solemnity on the fifteenth day of the month began another remarkable festival called the Feast of Tabernacles. It was to commemorate the forty years of tent life which their fathers led in the wilderness, and pointed, the same as that which it commemorated, to that period of the Christian's career which lies between his deliverance from bondage and his entrance into rest — that is, between his reconciliation to God and his final inheritance of the promises. It celebrates the state of the believer while he yet remains in this present life. This world is not our dwelling-place. We are pilgrims and strangers here, tarrying for a little season in tents and booths which we must soon vacate and leave to decay. "The earthly house of this tabernacle" must "be dissolved." The places that know us now shall soon know us no more. "Seven days" — a full period — were the people of Israel to remain in these temporary tabernacles. And thus shall we be at the inconvenience of a tent life for the full period of our earthly stay. But it was only once in a year that Israel kept the Feast of Tabernacles. And so, when we once leave the flesh, we shall never return to it again. Our future bodies shall be glorified, celestial, spiritual bodies. It is also a precious thought connected with this subject that when the Jews left their tents at the conclusion of the Feast of Tabernacles it was the Sabbath morning. This frail tent life is after all to be rounded off with the calm quiet of a consecrated day that has no night, and to merge into a rest that is never more to end.
(J. A. Seiss, . D. D.)
1. Divine in its origin.
2. Blissful in its quality.
3. Enriched with frequent delights.
II. THE CHRISTIAN YEAR HAS ITS FESTIVITIES.
1. Time is interrupted by sacred seasons.
2. Human life is refreshed by the blessings of religion.
3. A witness to what is God's will for man.
III. GRACIOUS SEASONS ARE APPOINTED FOR THE CHURCH.
1. Days of rest and gladness.
2. Special times of revival.
3. Foretaste of Heaven's joy.
(W. H. Jellie.)
II. SANITARY EFFECTS. They would greatly influence the health of the people. The Sabbath, necessitating weekly cleansings, and rest from work, and laws and ceremonies concerning disease (as leprosy) and purifications, deserve to be looked at in this light also. The annual purifying of the houses at Feast of Unleavened Bread; the dwelling at certain times in tents — leaving the houses to the free circulation of light and air; and the repeated journey on foot to Jerusalem, must have had a great sanitary influence. As man was the great object of creation, so his welfare — in many respects besides religion — was plainly aimed at in these regulations.
III. SOCIAL EFFECTS. Promoted friendly intercourse between travelling companions. Distributed information through the country at a time when the transmission of news was slow and imperfect. Imported into remote provincial districts a practical knowledge of all improvements in arts and sciences. Enlarged the general stock of knowledge by bringing many minds and great variety of taste together. Spread before the eyes of the nation the wonders collected in Jerusalem by the wealth and foreign alliances of Jewish kings.
IV. MORAL EFFECTS. The young looking forward to, the aged looking back upon, and all talking about past or future pilgrimages to the city of the great King. Education, thus, of memory and hope and desire. Influence of this on the habits of the people. Thrift promoted to provide against expenses of the journey. The promise of bearing company held out as reward to well-conducted youth. Enlargement of knowledge, improvement of taste, advantage to health, fixing habits, etc., would all react morally on the character of the people.
V. RELIGIOUS EFFECTS. These the most important. Preserved the religious faith of the nation, and religious unity among the people. Constantly reminded the people of the Divinely wrought deliverances of the past. Promoted gratitude and trust. Testified the reverence of the people for the Temple and its sacred contents. Influence of well-conducted Temple services upon the synagogues through the land. Led the mind of the nation to adore the one true and only God.
(J. C. Gray.)
(D. C. Hughes, M. A.)Genesis 2:3). Man may by His appointment make a good day (Esther 9:19), but it is God's prerogative to make a holy day; nor is anything sanctified but by the stamp of His institution. As all inherent holiness comes from His special grace, so all adherent holiness from His special appointment. Now concerning the holy times here ordained, observe —
1. They are called feasts. The Day of Atonement, which was one of them, was a fast; yet, because most of them were appointed for joy and rejoicing, they are in general called feasts. Some read it, "These are My assemblies,' but that is coincident with convocations. I would rather read it, "These are My solemnities"; so the Word here used is translated (Isaiah 33:20), where Zion is called "the city of our solemnities." And reading it so here the Day of Atonement was as great a solemnity as any of them.
2. They are the feasts of the Lord: "My feasts." Observed to the honour of His name, and in obedience to His command.
3. They were proclaimed; for they were not to be observed by the priests only that attended the sanctuary, but by all the people. And this proclamation was the joyful sound which they were blessed that were within hearing of (Psalm 89:15).
4. They were to be sanctified and solemnised with holy convocations that the services of these feasts might appear the more honourable and august, and the people more unanimous in the performance of them. It was for the honour of God and His institutions, which sought not corners, and the purity of which would be best preserved by the public administration of them; it was also for the edification of the people in love that the feasts were to be observed as holy convocations.
( Matthew Henry, D. D..)
1. Many, and returned frequently; which was intended to preserve in them a deep sense of God and religion, and to prevent their inclining to the superstitions of the heathen. God kept them fully employed in His service that they might not have time to hearken to the temptations of the idolatrous neighbourhood they lived in.
2. They were most of them times of joy and rejoicing. The weekly Sabbath is so, and all their yearly solemnities except the Day of Atonement. God would thus teach them that wisdom's ways are pleasantness; and oblige them to His service by obliging them to be cheerful in it and to sing at their work. Seven days were days of strict rest and holy convocations: The first day, and the seventh, of the Feast of Unleavened Bread; the Day of Pentecost; the day of the Feast of Trumpets; the first day, and the eighth, of the Feast of Tabernacles; and the Day of Atonement: here were six for holy joy, and one for holy mourning. We are commanded to rejoice evermore, but not to be evermore weeping.
( Matthew Henry, D. D..)
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